Burma Day 1: The Waiting Is Over

The most dangerous part of this project is working inside Burma. The risks are huge if caught – maybe not so much for me although you can’t be sure, but for anyone I’m with or is associated to me then it could mean paying the ultimate price and a very heavy prison sentence and all that comes with that. For these obvious reasons there is very little that can be talked about in this blog about the trips inside Burma (as with the trip last year) other than to state that no matter what these risks are, there are some very, very brave people indeed inside Burma who are willing to take them in order to tell the world what’s going on and in this case to tell the world that their colleagues currently detained in prison MUST be freed immediately. We take these risks because the message is too important and that is why I report back in a limited sense about what we are doing to let the world know that despite the risks we are doing what we can – there is nothing to be gained in staying silent. That’s what the Generals want.

This time I have a Visa-on-Arrival. It’s a new system introduced by the regime to try to lure more foreign visitors by making the visa process more simple – plus of course it costs more so they make more money… but I felt I might as well give it a go and on arrival at Rangoon airport, other than a few nervous moments when two military officials march across the waiting area with my passport in their hand and disappear into a small room, everything goes smoothly and I meet my official tour guide who has arranged my visa and we head into town – chatting about my forthcoming trip to Inle Lake, beautiful Bagan and all that wonderful Myanmar has to offer the newly arrived tourist. Of course I have no plans to go to any of these places and I’m purely going through the motions. I feel really sorry for her, knowing that deep down I know she hates her government as much as I do, but like so many, she is trapped here, unable to speak, unable to live an ordinary life. I get dropped off at my hotel by my guide and immediately jump in another taxi to another hotel once she is out of sight. Whilst your every move may be tracked by the regime and its intelligence officers, you might as well make it as hard for them as possible to know your exact whereabouts whenever you can. It’s a game of cat and mouse that you may not need to always play, but you can never be sure.

It’s incredibly hot here (40 degrees today) and everyone is gearing up for Thingyan next week. The rest of the day is spent taking in a few of Rangoon’s sites and several hours at the most beautiful of them all late into the evening – the Shwedagon Pagoda – one of my favourite places on earth.

A day being a tourist… after all that’s what I am aren’t I?!

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Burma Day 3: The Moment of Truth

Early morning in the side-streets of downtown Rangoon and the monsoon rains have already started. Secret telephone calls amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, not to mention the watching eyes of the curious, the fearful and the military stooges. The meeting is on. A day now even deeper undercover, but we take these risks because they need to be taken. Security reasons prevent more than this outline reporting. It’s the most incredible moment of my life. Total success as I manage to get to Bangkok without being caught, deported or worse – apart from a funny incident where I thought I had been rumbled. Killing time before making my way to the airport I was walking in the evening rain through People’s Park when across the other side of the park I heard the sound of blasts form a whistle. I looked across and there were two policeman on bikes making their way across the park towards me. I froze for a second unsure what to do but knowing that my memory cards were safely hidden should I be stopped by these policemen. Panic over, however as they rode on past me, still blowing their whistles… perhaps it was time for the park to close… who knows, but it certainly spooked me for a moment!

Full details will be released when safe to do so. SPDC your time will come.

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U Win Tin – The Voice of Reason (audio)

EXCLUSIVE AUDIO INTERVIEW

U Win Tin, one of Burma’s most prominent and outspoken former political prisoners and founding member of the National League for Democracy, gives his opinion on what it takes to deal with Burma’s military regime.
The full unedited version of this exclusive interview to follow (previously published in an edited format).

Click here for the EXCLUSIVE AUDIO of U WIn Tin’s opinion

U Win Tin

UWT: Well you see my opinion about this government is you see, that when you have to face with a military government, you need a little bit of courage, some sort of confronting you see. Because if you are always timid and afraid and intimidated they will step on you. Sometimes you have to make yourself a bit courageous, outspoken and so on.

JM: Is that what’s kept you going for so long, considering all your years in prison?

UWT: That is why when people tell me I should keep a low profile because people are very anxious about my security. You can be snatched back to prison at any time, but you can’t help it.

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Burma Day 1: Silence Awaiting The Sentence

Arrive in Rangoon early in the morning on the day that Aung San Suu Kyi is finally due to be sentenced. It’s tense. No-one expects any justice. That’s just not how it works. There are troops everywhere downtown and all I can do is wait to hear what’s happened which in a bizarre, Burmese soldier on guard in downtown Rangoonyet typical way for working inside Burma, it’s harder to find out what’s going on here just a couple of miles from the court room in Insein prison than if I was back in the outside world. News finally gets through that yet again the verdict has been delayed. The rain comes and the troops slowly recede back to their barracks. Nothing changes. Daily life continues as nothing was even happening. The consequences of showing any emotion over the Lady’s potential jailing are still too fresh in people’s minds. Nothing has changed since I was last here. It’s barely possible to be living in a worse situation.

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